December 2019

The Coming Realm of God Is Here

1st Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2019
Matthew 24:36-44, Isaiah 2:1-5
– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas

A couple of years ago, I mentioned that Advent offers occasions for me to hum tunes appropriate for the season, one of my favorites being an Alfred Burt carol:

Come, dear children, don’t be dallying,
All the family now is rallying.
Not a moment now to spare,
Joyful haste is in the air.
There are nuts to crack
And candies to make,
And birds to stuff
And cookies to bake.
There’s many and many a thing to do,
Which we have done before.
For Christmas, blessed Christmas
Is here once more!

This song became especially meaningful for me when my late mother, who was born on Christmas, came to live with us after my father died. Major preparation was undertaken that included renovating a section of the house into an apartment space for this honored member of my family that required the involvement of every member of the household, with the addition of contractors and carpenters. Advent preparation takes on new meaning and dimension when intimately related to family.

Yet while Advent is commonly understood as a time of preparation for the birth of the Christ child, it is more a time of preparation for the coming of God’s realm. You may have heard the saying, “Christ is coming, look busy!” Well, the more suitable saying should be “God is here, get busy!” This is a time when the entire world household should be hastily renovating and rearranging itself for this divine arrival, responding to global warming and freeing itself from oppression of every sort to create a welcoming environment where all children may be born and raised.

This is why Advent readings begin with scripture passages concerning the second coming rather than the first coming; and that the only reason we, as Christians, can celebrate the birth of Christ is because we know how the story ends; and because we, through Christ, have been afforded the privilege of also knowing the divine character God expects of us in our anxious expectations of God.

We look to the symbols of this season to remind us of this divine character. When we, for instance, consider the Advent wreath, we notice first the circle, which has neither a beginning nor end, adorned with evergreen, both signifying the eternity of God, and instructing that if we are live as citizens of God’s realm, we must rid ourselves of the notion that we are imprisoned in our mortality, since Christ has freed us by the awareness that we are first and foremost spiritual beings and emissaries animated by God’s breath of life. The weekly lighting of each candle further reminds us of the increasing light of God’s presence through the embodiment of God’s hope, peace, joy and love for the world. But let us also never forget that such character in a fallen world will encounter much resistance and hardship. So, the red of the holly and poinsettias signify the blood that is often sacrificed for the treasure we seek.

What is that treasure? Jesus described it as the wealth that enriches every soul, that “neither moth nor rust consumes, and thieves cannot steal.” (Matthew 6:20) And in this world where innocent victims are the targets of personal theft and corporate greed, as citizens of God’s realm, it becomes our quest to strive for the day when all people of God will live and prosper equally, afforded the dignity deserving all members of God’s world household; when we will no longer be divided by barriers of bigotry and hatred; when, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, we will study war no more. (2:4)

Jesus did not know when that day would come (Matthew 24:36), for it can only arrive when our hearts are ready to receive it; when all impediments are swept away so all flesh may see it together.

As long as you embrace and embody this character of godliness, the realm of God need not be a far-off future expectation, but a present-day reality that begins with you when you actively further the advent of this world-wide transformation through the life you live and the work you pursue here and now as children of God and followers of Christ.

Come, dear children, don’t be dallying,
All the family now is rallying.
Not a moment now to spare,
Joyful haste is in the air.

God is here, get busy! Amen.